An interesting poll, published last Friday in the Jewish Chronicle, showed that over two thirds of Jewish voters, 69 per cent, said they would support David Cameron compared with only 22 per cent for Ed Miliband. This is a very sharp change from 2010 where the two main parties were neck-and-neck.
Astonishment has focussed on the obvious fact that Ed Miliband is himself Jewish, having been born to a Jewish mother. Actually, Ed is what I describe as a “last generation Jew”. He does not practice the religion, his wife is not Jewish and therefore neither are his children. That is the Halachic law. Miliband is more interested in UK laws and how he can help change them for the better.
The surprised reaction to the recent poll is a failure to understand Jewish history. Yes, thanks to the financial strings being pulled by the Conservative Friends of Israel, David Cameron is widely regarded as “the most pro-Israel prime minister in British history.” So much so that he was not even allowed to use the word “disproportionate” to describe Israel’s two-month assault on Gaza last summer which killed 550 children and maimed thousands more.
On the other hand, Miliband stands condemned of putting the interests of his own country above those of a foreign state. As a Jew he will not be forgiven prioritising trivial matters like the NHS and £multi-billion tax avoidance and allowing his party a free vote on the existential issue of recognising a State of Palestine alongside Israel (aka the “Two-State Solution”, in which everybody purports to believe). For British Jews, merely being Jewish makes him ‘community property’, so for him to deviate from ‘community policy’ – anti-Palestine – is considered a betrayal, however good his other policies may be for this country. This is are the people Americans call “Israel Firsters”- no explanation needed.
In the synagogues they compare him with the murderous King Herod, who was set up by the Romans as the ruler of Judea the turn of the millennium and did his people no favours. Publicly they mutter that he is disloyal. My Israeli colleague Anshel Pfeffer (of the admirable Haaretz newspaper, thinks this is ridiculous. Judging Ed on the basis of his – brief – track record in foreign affairs and various private encounters of his own, Pfeffer is inclined to conclude that the trend is more related to his economic stance than his balanced position on Palestine.
“Miliband’s main flaw when it comes to British Jews, who often call themselves ‘the Tribe’, is that he is a tribal politician, but his tribe will always be the intellectual left-wing”, Pfeffer says, hitting the nail on the head. He then reminds us that, “When, early in his leadership, Labour’s candidate for mayor of London Ken Livingstone said that ‘rich Jews don’t vote Labour’, Miliband remained silent for days.” Perhaps because, not being seriously rich himself, he realised the small truth behind Ken’s crassness?
“Historically”, Pfeffer continues, “the majority of British Jews supported Labour because they saw the left wing as staunch opponents of any form of racism, of which they were so often the targets. In the last quarter of the 20th century, as they became better integrated and wealthier, they began drifting toward the Conservatives. The JC poll proves that not only has Ed Miliband failed to make the Jewish community feel he is one of them, he has also failed abysmally at allaying their fears” he concludes.
If Pfeffer (who has, for some reason, blocked me on Twitter) is correct, then I for one am VERY grateful. Perhaps, as an Israeli, he needs reminding that the Jewish Community makes up a mere 0.5 per cent of the electorate of this country, with the ability to swing no more than a handful of constituencies. This does not give them the right to own a prime minister because of an accident of birth.
If the other 99.5 per cent thought that Ed Miliband was being controlled in this way, his chances of winning the election would be NIL. The Labour leader has removed this vexed issue from the increasingly vicious campaign by confirming he belongs to no one. That is how it should remain.